Neighborhood volunteers cheer on runners during Hidden Gem Half Marathon

The prevailing sentiment following the first Hidden Gem Half Marathon in Flossmoor was enthusiastic appreciation. 

The runners said they loved it.

The villagers said they loved it.

The organizers were ecstatic.

Even the atmosphere saw fit to bless the event with perfect conditions, just shy of 60 degrees at race time under a blue sky dappled with light clouds. By the end of the race, the temperatures reached the mid-70s and the sun continued to shine out of a brilliant blue sky.

Oliv Blu of Flossmoor, recent competitor on "The Voice" TV talent show, sang the national anthem just before about 600 runners launched themselves across the village.

The course introduced runners to most of Flossmoor's neighborhoods, and in each area they were greeted by residents cheering them on, offering them water and providing entertainment. 

There was music everywhere, from DJs playing recorded music to performers, including bands like TiMELeSS, jazz horn player Tom Lockwood and young drummer Joseph Robertson, an eighth grade student at Parker Junior High. Xtra Xtra anchored the village-wide show, keeping the music going downtown as runners crossed the finish line.

One of the highlights for many participants was the performance of the Homewood-Flossmoor High School band on the north side of the H-F North Building.

Rachel Lewis of Homewood, running her first long race, said that was her favorite part of the experience. 

Many cheer groups had themes and wore costumes. The Brassie Avenue/Braeburn Avenue loop, for example, followed a "Caddyshack" theme after the 1980 Bill Murray/Chevy Chase golf comedy.

Along both streets, residents set up golf clubs along the street and fashioned encouraging signs to look like pin flags.

Gwen Gummerson, dressed as Carl Spackler, Bill Murray's character, said she came up with the idea and participated in planning. 

Her mother, Jeanne "Gigi" Gummerson, said the theme seemed appropriate since the village is surrounded by golf courses and the neighborhood is near Flossmoor Country Club, which was instrumental in the village's early development.

Toward the south end of Brassie, Nancy Knox also mentioned golf history as she announced over speakers directions for runners, alerting them of the next turn onto Flossmoor Road. With some funky background music from DJ Brian Flagg, she added a steady stream of banter that brought runners' attention to the village's features.

"Flossmoor's considered the jewel of the South Suburbs, hence the name Hidden Gem," she said. "Brian, a two-year resident did say, 'I'm not going to live anywhere else but here.' I said the same thing."

As runners neared Flossmoor Road, there was a banner across the road that read, "You will receive total consciousness ... at the end of the race!" another riff off a line in the movie.

Atukwe Newell, who was cheering along with the Gummersons, declared the day a historic success.

"The greatest thing to happen to Flossmoor in 60 years," he said. He was doing his part to make it so, alternating between cheering and sounding an air horn to encourage the runners going by.

"I've been screaming so much I barely have a voice," he said.

Runners noticed and seemed to appreciate the efforts of the cheer teams.

Linda Stanford, Nance Beele, Nancy Johnson and Janet Gustafson were posted at the bottom of the hill on the south end of Braeburn. They said nearly all the runners were smiling as they passed and returned waves.

"We've never seen this many people in Flossmoor," Stanford said, indicating that the marketing mission of the organizers had worked well.

At the top of the hill, Beele's husband, John, was across the street from a sign noting "You have reached the highest point in Flossmoor." Beele was also delivering the good news to the runners. 

"It's all downhill from here," he said. "You're on the back nine."

The event impressed one runner who has quite a few points of comparison. Jim "Skinny" Sheahan of Chicago, who took second place in the 70 and older category, has been a serious runner for more than four decades and has run dozens of marathons and more than 100 half marathons.

"I think they did an absolutely tremendous job. I cannot believe this was their first race because it was so well organized," he said. "Great participation from the community. Unbelievable really. It was a lot of fun. Beautiful course. It was nice to see they had bands out there. Everyone was so nice along the way."
 
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Photos by Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle, except as noted.

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A great community deserves a great newspaper. The HF Chronicle was created in June 2014 as an online publication. In December 2015 we began monthly print publication, too. Our mission is to chronicle the life of our community — news by, for, and about the people of Homewood and Flossmoor, Illinois.

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